It will certainly be interesting to see where Microsoft takes the stock keeping unit (SKU) strategy for Windows vNext.
Referred to informally as Windows 8, even inside Microsoft, the next major iteration of Windows is bound to mirror the editions of its predecessor, at least to some extent.
With Windows 7, the software giant is offering the following SKUs: Ultimate, Enterprise, Professional, Home Premium, Home Basic and Starter.
Some of them, such as Enterprise, Home Basic and Starter are available only to specific customers, in relation to certain licenses, or on limited markets. The rest can be purchased by both consumers and businesses.
Users that are also familiar with the SKU strategy for Windows Vista can tell that Windows 7 inherited some editions from its precursor.
But just as Windows 7 SKUs evolved compared to Vista’s, the same will happen for Windows 8. There’s no telling how exactly, but don’t think for a minute that the Redmond company is not already exploring a variety of possibilities.
One Microsoft employee reveals contributions “to the beta, RC and RTM releases of Windows 7. Contributed to M1/M2 of Windows 8. Influenced all Windows 7/Windows 8 Server SKU products.” (via SEO Whistleblower)
This can mean that Microsoft might actually wrapped up its Windows 8 SKU strategy already, although it’s yet to finish Milestone 2, with coding for M3 planned to start on February 28, 2011.
The way I see it, the company might introduce at least one new SKU of Windows. This is nothing but pure speculation on my part, but I’m counting on the fact that with Windows 8, for the first time ever, Microsoft will deliver a flavor of its Windows client tailored to Tablet PCs.
I can really see a SKU such as Windows 8 Slate or Windows 8 Tablet capturing the imagination of consumers and giving the platform an edge against the competition. And, Windows will certainly need an edge against Android and iOS.
Something similar happened with Windows 7 for netbooks, if you were paying attention. Microsoft didn’t deliver a Windows 7 Netbook SKU, but it did change the direction and purpose of the Starter edition quite a bit.
In my opinion, it will be a mistake to let an evolved Windows 8 Starter edition be tailored to Tablet PCs with limited hardware resources, and force OEMs to embrace the full Home Premium for PC-like slates.
I’ve used Windows 7 Starter on netbooks, and there’s little to be impressed about, if anything at all.
Microsoft needs a Windows 8 SKU dedicated to Tablet PCs, and should not consider expanding the reach of the Starter edition to also include slates.
The Home Basic edition needs to go. It’s simple. The company should go back to Starter for emerging markets and get rid of Home Basic for good.
I expect the software giant to continue to deliver Home Premium, Professional, Enterprise and Ultimate editions of Windows 8, although Ultimate and Enterprise could do with becoming one, since the only actual difference is in terms of licensing.
Again, this is just speculation and not based on any information of how Microsoft’s Windows 8 SKU strategy will evolve.